If 6,000-plus people want to run in the Sound to Narrows race, that’s fine with Doug Fritts.
What’s not fine with him is the fact that for most of Saturday morning, he felt like a prisoner in his own neighborhood.
This year’s version of the footrace surrounded the area between North 51st and 37th streets and the four blocks between North Pearl and Vassault streets. When Fritts asked people working the barricades how to get out so he could drive his wife to work, no one could tell him. She was half an hour late to her job.
Fritts and his wife moved to a home near North 50th and Bristol streets about a year ago. They didn’t know getting out during the race would be a problem.
They weren’t interested in running 10, 5 or 2 kilometers, so they didn’t know the routes would box in their whole neighborhood, then subdivide it into three smaller boxes.
The notification sailed right past them.
Race organizers explained Tuesday what that notification consists of.
“We contract with The News Tribune to deliver 2,500 letters to residents letting them know the race route, times and ways to get out of their neighborhood,” said Marce Edwards of MultiCare Health System, which puts on the race.
The notice comes with the paper and with advertising packets for people who don’t subscribe. It shows the routes, it notes that the event lasts from 6 a.m. to noon, and it reminds people that the entrance to Point Defiance Park also will be barricaded.
Fritts never saw it. Nor, apparently, did the eight people he says he met who also were trying to leave during the race.
Runners, of course, are incredulous at the notion that, on Sound to Narrows’ 40th anniversary, anyone could be unaware of it. Runners are famously up on current and local events. They might be appalled that some people could care less about Tacoma’s favorite race, or the Stanley Cup, or that the Oklahoma City Thunder played in the first game of the NBA finals Tuesday night.
But we’re out here. And, on the morning of the race, Fritts and his wife were out there, trying to leave.
At the first closed intersection at North 49th and Pearl streets, they ran into a man with a walkie-talkie.
“He must have dealt with other people prior, because he came up to the car, very aggressive, and said ‘Nope, nope. You’ve gotta find another way,’” Fritts said.
Fritts asked where that way was, and the man didn’t know.
“Is there a way to get on your radio and ask headquarters?” Fritts asked.
He said the man replied “This is for emergencies only. There’s no way I’m using that.”
Nor would the man move the barriers when there was a break in the runners.
A police officer at North 49th and Vassault directed the Frittses to North 46th and Vassault, but a barricade at 48th and Bristol blocked their way. In the end, they found an exit guarded by two young women who were not paying attention. The Frittses squeezed their car through this weak link in the barricades when there was a break in the race.
In an e-mail to race organizers this week, Fritts detailed his attempts to get out.
“Each volunteer told me they were instructed to let no one out of the perimeter. This is false imprisonment,” he argued.
It looks more like sloppy management.
Fritts’ solution is for race organizers to send registered letters to everyone inside the perimeter. But that’s too spendy.
The fix is simple: Volunteers at blocked intersections on race day should have copies of the notification that was delivered, and, in some homes, missed. It shows a map of the races, the blockades within it, and identifies the local access points at North 46th Street at Pearl and Vassault.
Based on the angry guy and the inattentive young women, some of the volunteers could also use some training.
Sound to Narrows is a community event, and it should provide a terrific experience for participants even while it meets the needs of residents in need of an exit firstname.lastname@example.org